Clardy's Corner: Hello losses, my old friend

Will Luck hang onto his Heisman lead?

These days Stanford Football has spent the majority of its time occupying the win column. But last Saturday against Oregon, we were the other 50 percent.

Stanford Football's winning streak is over. It had been 406 days since the Card last lost a game. That's five marriages in Kim Kardashian Time.

Somos perdedores. We're losers, baby. So why don't you kill us.

That seemed to be the feeling among many Cardinalmaniacs in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's result. All the soul-searching, all the long manifestos on the BootBoard Plus, all the griping and moaning about this and that. A few threads that even seemed to question David Shaw's suitability as a head coach (a notion so ridiculous I didn't even waste the click on them).

To me, there was no need for all of that: the reasons for Stanford's loss are simple.

As soon as I saw Shayne Skov crumpled on the turf in Tucson clutching his knee in pain, one of my very first thoughts was, "Aw man…we're gonna need him November 12."

When Chris Owusu had to be ambulanced out of Reser Stadium with his third concussion of the season, I said out loud, "There's no way he plays next week."

Delano Howell's hand. Zach Ertz's leg. Howell didn't last the game. Ertz didn't play at all.

If you're missing your top playmakers, it's hard to win. It's even harder when you're facing top-notch competition. Oregon themselves learned this lesson while LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner picked the exact wrong moments to start cramping up against LSU. People conveniently forget this, but up until that exact point, that game was a dead heat…until the heat knocked James and Barner dead.

This isn't a big secret, but for Stanford, Oregon is a bad matchup to begin with. The Card have never been a team that can stop speed on the perimeter. Ever. The Ducks have been feasting on teams by putting their speed on the perimeter. Forever.

It becomes an even worse matchup for the Card when they are missing their top linebacker, their most physical defensive back, one of their best tight ends, and the only receiver who can pop the top off an opposing defense. Stanford didn't have all hands on deck, and they paid the price.

Now, I'm not placing last Saturday's result squarely on the injuries, and on Stanford's own shortcomings. Far from it. As coaches like to say, the other team is on scholarship too.

Oregon's coaches know what they're doing, and they're not afraid to roll the dice with the game on the line. Last year it was a brilliantly-timed and perfectly-executed onside kick that stole a possession and gave the Ducks much-needed momentum. This year it was a fourth-down screen pass to beat Stanford's blitz for a touchdown that put the Cardinal in comeback mode the rest of the way.

Their defense finally flashed the turnover touch they've lacked for most of the year. Duck fans haven't seen too many splash plays and forced errors by their team's defense. They got them when they needed them most.

And then there's De'Anthony Thomas. My God. He may put the ball on the ground a bit too often right now, but he is still going to be a special, special player. Heck, the only Duck who can probably beat Thomas in a race is Cliff Harris. And Cliff would need his 2011 Altima (and some—umm, shall we say—enhancing substances) to do it.

Stanford lost a football game. But in college football, one loss means so much more. The Cardinal also lost their shot at the BCS title game. They lost a few slots in the polls. They lost a little luster, and maybe a little pride.

Some think Andrew Luck may also have lost his Heisman Trophy. I can't believe this for a second. If Luck still isn't the frontrunner for the award, then who is it? Kellen Moore? He just lost, too. Trent Richardson has been steady, but not spectacular. Case Keenum is feasting on Conference USA defenses every week. That's like beating Dexter Manley in Scrabble.

And please don't say Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden. Don't get me wrong; as mentioned earlier this year, I like watching that offense operate (and what they did to Texas Tech last week was almost criminal). But anyone who has Weeden above Luck right now is spending too much time reading box scores and not enough time watching football.

One thing Stanford had better not lose is The Axe. Not within the Eucalyptus Curtain. Not with the Card playing like it has so far this year. Not with the Bears playing like they have so far this year. And certainly not after snatching the Big Game trophy back last season in the sweetest hot-buttered Golden Bear beatdown yet.

Normally I get after the Weenies a little bit from time to time in these Corners, but I'm going to be nice and take the high road with them this year. I'm not going to mention the fact that Stanford got its new and functional stadium six years before cal will have theirs ready to go. I won't harp on how much it must have stung to watch the ESPN College GameDay gang hanging out on The Farm instead of in Berkeley. I won't rub Stanford's BCS bowl victory, winning streak against U$C, and current national relevance in their faces. I'm not that type of guy.

But this Saturday, Stanford has much more to lose than cal. And if Big Game history has taught us anything, the team with the most to lose usually does. Losing stinks. Hopefully Stanford doesn't have to learn that lesson again anytime soon.

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RANDOM PAC-11 THOUGHTS

My God…does anybody want to win the Pac-11 South?

In hindsight, I should have seen Colorado's win over Arizona coming. Some teams just aren't good enough to be trusted on the road, no matter who the opponent is. Arizona is one of those teams right now…

Connor Halliday? Who?

There was snow on the ground in Pullman when the Cougars took on the Sun Devils. It's believed that it's Arizona State's first snow game since the 1970 Peach Bowl. Any of our historians care to tackle when Stanford's last snow game was?

Their defense can't stop anyone. Now, injuries are racking up on their quarterback. It's a good thing Washington is bowl-eligible already, because their stock is going down…

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… nice job by Nebraska and Penn State in the pregame last week. Very moving moment. And no, that game should not have been cancelled. With all the legal things going on, Penn State is going to need all the money it can get. That community needed to begin a return to normalcy the best way it possibly could: by playing a football game. And as important as that game was in the Big 10 standings, that game would have needed to be played somewhere and sometime. Not playing would have been a logistical nightmare, a financial blow, and it would have slowed the healing process. They made the right call to play that game…

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… He runs a clean program with integrity. He has coached for high-profile programs. He is a leader and a teacher. I seriously doubt that he would be interested. But am I crazy for thinking that Penn State may want to give Tyrone Willingham a call to gauge his interest?

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… Oklahoma State just scored again…

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… really? It's all up to Matt Leinart now in Houston? Ugh. Next time you see a Houston Texans fan, console him. That is, if you can actually find a Houston Texans fan…

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Got a thought on this Corner? Drop me a line either at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc)... or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com...

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PAC-11 PICKS

Washington @ Oregon State. The Huskies are 0-4 against top-25 teams. The Beavers are not a top-25 team. Therefore, I like Washington by 11.

Utah @ Washington State. I don't know if Connor Halliday is for real, but we'll find out against Utah's defense. I like Washington State by 10.

Colorado @ UCLA. Good for the Buffs. They won a conference game. But this team isn't good enough to win on the road right now. Not even against the Bruins. I like UCLA by 10.

U$C @ Oregon. The Trojan defense is playing better. But I still can't pick them—or anyone—to beat that team in that stadium right now. I like Oregon by 19.

Arizona @ Arizona State. What will we see more of Saturday: ASU touchdowns or ASU personal fouls? The Sun Devils should be good and mad for this one, so I expect plenty of both. I like Arizona State by 27.

Last week: 3-2 (straight-up), 4-1 (ATS).
This year: 22-13 (straight-up), 24-11 (ATS).
Last year: 23-13 (straight-up), 16-20 (ATS).

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Troy Clardy is in his 19th year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 10th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.


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